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NCAA to examine recruiting, academic rules

4/18/2004

INDIANAPOLIS -- For nearly two years, Todd Turner has worked
to return academic integrity to college sports. For two months,
David Berst has tried to rewrite recruiting rules.

Both are about to face a major test.

The NCAA Management Council meets Monday and Tuesday to consider
sweeping proposals endorsed by NCAA president Myles Brand and
designed to change the culture and image of intercollegiate
athletics.

"Both are very critical areas for us," said council chairwoman
Christine Plonsky, women's athletic director at Texas. "Common
sense can prevail very, very easily. In the academic world, we're
moving into a new direction."

Turner, the former athletic director at Vanderbilt, heads a
committee that developed an ambitious proposal to penalize schools
when student-athletes consistently perform poorly in the classroom.

Berst, an NCAA vice president, oversees a panel examining
recruiting rules. That group's ideas also will be discussed this
week.

If the proposal from Turner's committee is passed by the council
this week and approved by the NCAA Board of Directors on April 29,
schools could be penalized as early as next year. The NCAA would
look at graduation rates and general academic progress of athletes,
assigning a score to each of the more than 6,000 Division I teams
in all sports.

If a team then falls below a certain standard, which will be
determined when data is collected from 2004-05, incremental
penalties would include a warning letter, loss of scholarships,
disqualification from NCAA tournaments and loss of money from NCAA
championships. The penalty would increase each year, meaning a
school would have to produce substandard results for four
consecutive years to face the harshest penalty: loss of money.

If a school falls below the standard, and players who would have
been academically ineligible the following year leave school, those
scholarships would be lost for one year. Turner said there would be
no limit on how many scholarships could be lost, although there
would be an appeals process.

"I will be pleased when there is evidence that behaviors have
changed and our student-athletes are more like students than
professionals," Turner said. "This is one of the most significant
things we've tried to do to make academics important."

Turner's committee also wanted to reward schools that exceeded
the standards. Adding scholarships and increasing on-campus visits
were both considered before being ruled out. Now it appears any
reward primarily would be additional publicity for the team.

Plonsky said the biggest concern she's heard from schools,
coaches and athletic directors is that it's not clear where the
academic bar will be set.

Still, the package is expected to pass.

"It's hard not to support academic reform. We all feel an
obligation," Plonsky said.

The other major issue this week is recruiting.

Berst led a task force appointed by Brand in February after
highly publicized scandals at Colorado and Miami.

The task force has made several recommendations to restrict
over-the-top wining and dining of recruits. It also asked
universities to implement their own policies.

Berst, the NCAA's former head of enforcement, said if the
schools put a policy in writing, the NCAA could then hold the
school accountable to those policies.

Additional measures could be proposed at the Management
Council's July meeting in Baltimore with the hope that new
recruiting standards would be in place by this fall. Berst will
make the recommendations this week, but a vote is not expected.

The task force ruled out stricter changes that could have
eliminated paid visits by recruits completely. But the panel might
reconsider cutting the number of paid visits a recruit can take
before the final proposal is completed.

"This has exactly the right kind of teeth," Berst said. "It's
the manner in which you show the teeth that's important. If we have
institutions help us design things, it seems to have a better
chance of actually changing the culture."